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Switch to Success: 20 Years of Nintendo Console Sales

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20 years of nintendo console sales and nintendo switch sales

Nintendo Console Sales Visualized

How the Nintendo Switch Brought Console Sales Back

Since its 2017 release, the Nintendo Switch has become a household game console for gamers and non-gamers alike.

Few consoles penetrate the mainstream deeply enough to have parents referring to a console by its proper name, instead of their children’s “Gameboy” or “Wii”. Even fewer come together as a complete package that ties together the ideologies and technical ideas of their preceding consoles like the Nintendo Switch has.

This graphic visualizes the Nintendo Switch sales success story alongside more than 20 years of Nintendo console sales.

The History of Nintendo Console Sales

Nintendo has a long and storied history in gaming—but since the release of the original Game Boy in 1989, the company has favored a two-pronged approach with its game consoles: having both a portable handheld console and a home console which connects to a TV on the market.

The Game Boy and the SNES (1990) were the first iteration of this strategy, and they reached more than 160 million units sold combined while establishing legendary game franchises with revered sequels like Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

The Game Boy’s variants like the Game Boy Pocket (1996) and Game Boy Color (1998) lengthened the handheld’s lifespan enough to accompany another home console, with the Nintendo 64 coming out in 1996 and selling 32.93 million units of its own.

These successes proved that the gaming audience would support two separate Nintendo consoles on the market, and Nintendo kept the strategy going the following generations.

Lifetime Nintendo Console Sales

ConsoleRelease YearUnits Sold
(as of Sept 30, 2020)
NES198361.91 M
Game Boy1989118.69 M
SNES199049.1 M
Nintendo 64199632.93 M
Game Boy Advance200181.51 M
Nintendo GameCube200121.74 M
Nintendo DS2004154.02 M
Nintendo Wii2006101.63 M
Nintendo 3DS201175.94 M
Wii U201213.56 M
Nintendo Switch201768.3 M

Source: Nintendo

The next generation made up of the Game Boy Advance (2001) and Nintendo GameCube (2001) saw slightly lower sales numbers, but was competing against Microsoft’s gaming debut with the original Xbox (2001) and Sony’s incredibly popular Playstation 2 (2000).

While the GameCube sold 21.7 million total units and the original Xbox sold ~24 million total units, the Playstation 2 dominated this generation and is still the best-selling video game console of all time with 155 million units sold.

The Sales Success of the Wii and Nintendo DS

As Sony and Microsoft pushed HD rendering and higher graphical fidelity in their next generation of consoles, Nintendo focused on how games were played rather than raw power.

This brought about the Nintendo DS (2004), which added a second touch screen for developers to build games around, and the Nintendo Wii (2006), which pioneered motion controls and accessibility with the simpler Wii Remote controller.

Both the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wii were runaway successes, dominating their generation with more than 255 million combined consoles sold.

At the same time, Sony had tried to replicate Nintendo’s strategy with handheld consoles of their own, the PSP (2004) and PS Vita (2011), and while they sold 80 million units and ~10-15 million units respectively, Sony ultimately abandoned the handheld console market.

The Sales Slump of the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U

Nintendo was clearly the king of the handheld console market. While mobile phones were feared to be a portable console killer, the Nintendo 3DS sold well when it released in 2011 (75.94 million units) and was Nintendo’s saving grace for its generation.

What didn’t hold up well was Nintendo’s home console follow-up to the Wii, the Wii U. The console only reached 13.56 million lifetime sales, and was quickly overshadowed by the Playstation 4 (113.5 million units sold) and Xbox One (~51 million units sold) releases in 2013.

The Wii U’s weak sales brought about one of Nintendo’s worst periods ever in recent history, with two unprofitable years for the company in 2012 and 2014. While developers previously flocked to create games for the Wii’s motion controls, the Wii U’s tablet controller didn’t attract the same kind of innovative software development.

Nintendo’s Net Income Since 2000

YearNet Income (USD)
2000$490 M
2001$734 M
2002$896 M
2003$627 M
2004$324 M
2005$742 M
2006$827 M
2007$1,561 M
2008$2,838 M
2009$3,003 M
2010$2,819 M
2011$1,010 M
2012-$498 M
2013$67 M
2014-$194 M
2015$348 M
2016$141 M
2017$910 M
2018$1,273 M
2019$1,787 M
2020$2,500 M

Source: Nintendo

How the Nintendo Switch Unified Nintendo’s Strategies

With the Wii U’s poor performance leaving Nintendo in a tough spot, the next console release was crucial to the success of the company.

The Nintendo Switch came just in time in 2017 as the Wii U’s sales dried up, and the new hybrid home and portable console was an instant success. By the end of 2018’s fiscal year, the Switch had already outsold the Wii U with 17 million units sold.

While the Nintendo Switch sales success story came largely from how it unified home and handheld gaming, the console brought to fruition many of Nintendo’s strategies and technical decisions over the generations.

Many of the Wii Remote’s abilities are still present in the Switch’s Joy-Cons, with built-in accelerometers and gyroscopes for motion controls, along with the ability to rotate them sideways for a more classic controller configuration. The Nintendo DS’s touch screen permeated many Nintendo consoles and is still present in the Switch, and looking back at the Wii U’s tablet controller, it now seems like an early prototype for the Switch’s free-form portability.

Combining Physical and Digital Play

Nintendo’s foray into physical toys, which started with Amiibo figures, is also gradually developing and merging physical and digital play thanks to the Switch.

In 2018, the company released Nintendo Labo, a custom cardboard building set which integrates with the Switch and its Joy-Cons for a variety of games and experiences. The 2020 release of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit pushed this further, with players able to build a Mario Kart circuit in their home to race physical karts controlled by the Switch.

The company is continuing to branch out into other realms with the opening of Super Nintendo World theme park in Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan on February 4th, 2021. The theme park will also be combining the digital and physical world, with virtual coin collecting and other prizes tracked on mobile phones, gamifying the experience for visitors.

Broadening Nintendo’s Audience to More than Just Gamers

The success of the Nintendo Switch has brought on more experimentation and fresh ideas from the company, and the COVID-19 pandemic made it an essential product of 2020. With many families at home due to lockdowns, being able to slide the console out of its dock and off the TV to play in handheld mode has been a game-changer.

While Nintendo’s development team can prepare for their next console with a bit more financial breathing room thanks to the Switch’s superb sales, the company has been working hard to broaden its audience. The physical toys for younger audiences help capture a new generation of Nintendo fans, while older generations of fans will be excited to visit Super Nintendo World and indulge in nostalgia while introducing Nintendo to their children.

As the Nintendo Switch’s excellent game library continues to expand, new and old fans alike will be excited to see what consoles, games, and other products come next from the legendary game company.

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Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Cultural Power?

Visual Capitalist’s first-ever Generational Power Index looks at which U.S. generation holds the most cultural influence in American society.

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cultural power GPI

Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Cultural Power?

This year, our team put together Visual Capitalist’s inaugural Generational Power Index (GPI), which looks at power dynamics across generations in America.

We considered three categories in our quest to quantify power: economics, political, and cultural. And while it turns that out Baby Boomers dominate when it comes to economics and political factors—the are of cultural influence is a different story.

Here’s a look at which U.S. generation holds the most cultural power, and how this power dynamic is expected to shift in the coming years.

Generations and Power, Defined

Before we get started, it’s important to clarify which generations we’ve included in our research, along with their age and birth year ranges.

GenerationAge range (years)Birth year range
The Silent Generation76 and over1928-1945
Baby Boomers57-751946-1964
Gen X41-561965-1980
Millennials25-401981-1996
Gen Z9-241997-2012
Gen Alpha8 and below2013-present

Using these age groups as a framework, we then calculated the Cultural Power category using these distinct equally-weighted variables:

cultural power category breakdown

With this methodology in mind, here’s how the Cultural Power category shakes out, using insights from the GPI.

Share of Cultural Power by Generation

Overall, we found that Gen X captures the largest share of cultural power, at 36%.

GenerationCultural Power Share
The Silent Generation8.8%
Baby Boomers25.1%
Gen X36.0%
Millennials23.9%
Gen Z6.1%
Gen Alpha0.00%
Total99.9%

*Note: figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Gen X is particularly dominant in the film and TV industry, along with news media. For instance, over half of America’s largest news corporations have a Gen Xer as their CEO, and roughly 50% of Oscar winners in 2020 were members of Gen X.

Baby Boomers come in second place, capturing a 25% share of cultural power. They show particular dominance in traditional entertainment like books and art. For example, 42% of the authors on the NYT’s best-selling books list were Baby Boomers.

However, these older generations fall short in one critical category—digital platforms.

The Dominance of Digital

Why is digital so important when it comes to cultural power? Because digital media becoming increasingly more popular than traditional media sources (e.g. TV, radio).

GPI Cultural Power By Generation Supplemental Time Spent on Media

In 2020, Americans spent nearly 8 hours per day consuming digital media, nearly two hours more per day than they spent with traditional media.

This divide is expected to grow even further over the next few years. With younger generations dominating the digital space, Gen X may soon lose its place as the top dog of the culture category.

Celebrity 2.0: The Social Influencer

As audiences flock to online channels, advertisers have followed suit—and they’re willing to spend good money to gain access to their target demographics.

In fact, spend on influencer marketing has steadily increased in the last five years, and it’s expected to reach $13.8 billion by the end of 2021.

GPI Cultural Power By Generation Supplemental Influencer Marketing Spend

This shift to social media advertising is redefining the notion of celebrity, and who reaps the financial benefits of content creation. For instance, six-year-old Vlogger Like Nastya made an estimated $7.7 million per month from her YouTube channel in 2020. And keep in mind, this estimate is purely based on YouTube revenue—it doesn’t even include corporate partnerships and/or merchandise sales.

With all these shifts occurring, culture as we know it is at a crossroads. And as we continue to move towards a digital dominant society, those who hold power in traditional realms will either adapt or pass along the torch.

Download the Generational Power Report (.pdf)

The Generational Power Index

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Ranked: The Most Popular Paid Subscription News Websites

Many consumers are reluctant to pay for their news, but those that do turn to trusted sources. Here’s a look at the most subscribed to news websites.

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Ranked: The Most Popular Subscription News Websites

While paywalls are becoming increasingly more popular among news websites, most consumers still aren’t willing to pay for their online news.

In fact, a recent survey by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reveals that only 20% of Americans pay for digital news, and of those that do, the majority subscribe to only one brand.

This begs the question—which news outlets are audiences willing to pay for?

Using data from FIPP and CeleraOne, this graphic looks at the most popular news websites across the globe, based on their total number of paid subscriptions.

*Note: This report relies on publicly available data, and should not be considered an exhaustive list.

The Full Breakdown

With 7.5 million subscriptions, The New York Times (NYT) takes the top spot on the list. 2020 was an exceptionally strong year for the outlet—by Q3 2020, the NYT had generated the same amount of revenue from digital subscriptions as it had for the entire year of 2019.

RankPublicationPaid Subscriptions
1🇺🇸 The New York Times7,500,000
2🇺🇸 The Washington Post3,000,000
3🇺🇸 The Wall Street Journal2,400,000
4🇺🇸 Game Informer2,100,000
5🇬🇧 Financial Times1,100,000
6🇺🇸 The Athletic1,000,000
7🇬🇧 The Guardian790,000
8🇯🇵 Nikkei769,000
9🇬🇧 The Economist516,000
10🇨🇳 Caixin510,000
11🇩🇪 Bild494,000
12🇬🇧 The Sunday Times337,000
13🇬🇧 The Telegraph320,000
14🇺🇸 The Atlantic300,000
15🇮🇹 Corriere Della Sera300,000
16🇫🇷 Le Monde300,000
17🇺🇸 The Boston Globe270,000
18🇦🇷 La Nacion260,000
19🇦🇷 Clarin260,000
20🇫🇷 L'equipe259,000
21🇺🇸 Los Angeles Times253,000
22🇸🇪 Aftonbladet250,000
23🇺🇸 The New Yorker240,000
24🇵🇱 Wyborcza240,000
25🇧🇷 Folha de S.Paulo236,000
26🇸🇪 Dagens Nyheter208,000
27🇺🇸 Business Insider200,000
28🇫🇷 Mediapart170,000
29🇳🇴 VG150,000
30🇺🇸 Wired142,000
31🇨🇦 The Globe and Mail139,000
32🇩🇪 Welt132,000
33🇳🇴 Aftenposten119,000
34🇫🇷 Le Figaro110,000
35🇺🇸 Chicago Tribune100,000
36🇺🇸 Star Tribune100,000
37🇳🇴 Dagbladet100,000
38🇫🇮 Helsingin Sanomat100,000

The Times is the most popular by a landslide—it has over double the number of subscriptions than the second outlet on the list, The Washington Post. Yet, while WaPo is no match for NYT, it still boasts a strong following, with approximately 3 million paid subscriptions as of Q4 2020.

Japanese outlet Nikkei ranks number one among the non-English news websites. It’s the largest business newspaper in Japan, mainly focusing on markets and finance, but also covering politics, sports, and health.

Legacy Papers: Which Websites Come From Traditional Media?

Most of the websites on this list stem from traditional media. Because of this, they’ve had years to establish themselves as trusted sources, and win over loyal readers.

Interestingly, more than half of the outlets included in this ranking are at least 100 years old.

PublicationYear LaunchedAge (Years)
🇬🇧 The Guardian1821200
🇬🇧 The Sunday Times1821200
🇫🇷 Le Figaro1826195
🇸🇪 Aftonbladet1830190
🇬🇧 The Economist1843178
🇺🇸 Chicago Tribune1847173
🇺🇸 NYT1852169
🇬🇧 The Telegraph1855166
🇺🇸 The Atlantic1857164
🇳🇴 Aftenposten1860160
🇸🇪 Dagens Nyheter1864157
🇺🇸 Star Tribune1867154
🇳🇴 Dagbladet1869152
🇦🇷 La Nacion1870151
🇺🇸 The Boston Globe1872149
🇮🇹 Corriere Della Sera1876145
🇺🇸 Washington Post1877144
🇯🇵 Nikkei.com1876144
🇺🇸 LA Times1881140
🇬🇧 Financial Times1888133
🇺🇸 Wall Street Journal1889132
🇫🇮 Helsingin Sanomat1889132
🇧🇷 Folha de S.Paulo1921100
🇺🇸 The New Yorker192596
🇨🇦 The Globe and Mail193685
🇫🇷 Le Monde194477
🇦🇷 Clarin194576
🇳🇴 VG194576
🇫🇷 L'equipe194675
🇩🇪 Welt194675
🇩🇪 Bild195269
🇵🇱 Wyborcza198932
🇺🇸 Game Informer199130
🇺🇸 Wired199328
🇺🇸 Business Insider200714
🇫🇷 Mediapart200813
🇨🇳 Caixin200912
🇺🇸 The Athletic20165

Yet, undeterred by these well-established outlets, a few scrappy websites made the cut despite a shorter history. Four out of the 38 websites are less than 20 years old.

The Athletic is the newest outlet to make the ranking. Established in 2016, the outlet’s target demographic is die-hard sports fans who miss the days of in-depth, quality sports writing.

The Need For Trusted Sources

Amidst the global pandemic, issues involving misinformation and fake news have helped reaffirm the important role that trusted news sources play in the dissemination of public information.

With this in mind, it’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for digital media consumption. With paywalls becoming increasingly more common, will consumers jump on board and eventually be more willing to pay for their news?

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